A house divided cannot stand, but can the same be said for a campaign divided? In recent days, GOP candidate Mitt Romney has directly contradicted his running mate Paul Ryan on budget issues surrounding Medicare and Pell grants.
During his CBS “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday night, Romney distanced himself from Ryan’s proposed budget plan that would slash $716 billion from Medicare, a cut similar to the one proposed by the Obama administration. Ryan was going to use that money to reduce the national deficit, Romney said, but the former governor has other plans.
“I’m putting it back into Medicare, and I’m the guy running for president, not him,” Romney said. He proposed a plan that would give individuals the option of getting private health insurance or continuing to rely on Medicare.
Romney’s comments are just one part of a trend of contradictory statements between the Republican presidential and vice-presidential candidates when it comes to the budget. Romney also opposed Ryan’s budget restrictions for Pell grants during his Univision and Facebook town hall on Wednesday.
“I think the Republican budget called for a Pell grants being capped out at their current high level,” Romney said in response to an audience member question. “My inclination would be to have them go with the rate of inflation.” Romney said raising the maximum limit of Pell grants would keep college costs down, allowing more low-income students to get their degrees.
Romney promised to balance the budget by the end of his second term, but he faces a tough road if he continues to contradict every area in which Ryan would like to lower spending. Even with a quickly-recovering economy, Romney’s budget plan might not deliver on his two-term promise.
These recent differences have raised another concern in the Republican camp. When Ryan was brought onto the ticket, conservatives were excited about the prospect of a hard-hitting, big issues player. Ryan was not afraid to make budget changes that were unpopular in order to lower the national debt. However, as both the New York Times and POLITICO report, Ryan has been put on a short leash, even though many GOP campaign supporters believe Ryan would be more effective if allowed to play to his strong suits.
Romney seems skittish about sharing the limelight with Ryan, which is somewhat understandable, due to the vice-presidential candidate’s charismatic personality. However, Romney’s budget contradictions are shining a light on a campaign without a clear financial direction, and the former governor would benefit from taking a few cues from his number two.